Wrapping up U of L’s win over Marquette . . .
–If you liked U of L’s retro uniforms, a limited number will be for sale soon on the auction site at uoflsports.com. U of L didn’t do the throwbacks for marketing reasons. They’re not rolling out a line of those retro jerseys. They just wanted to pay homage to some of the program’s history. Interestingly, however, I was told that they opted against going with the 80’s uniforms because the marketing gurus were wary of bringing back the old Cardinal logo. Or the “Cardinal-chicken” logo as some have called it, because of its skinny legs. Leaving aside that actual Cardinals aren’t exactly muscular birds, it’s an unfortunate choice. The dunking Cardinal remains one of the really good, distinctive college basketball logos. Don’t forget U of L went to four Final Fours and won two titles from 1980 to ’86 with the old bird.
— Andre McGee was a natural column subject for today’s game, but my colleague, Rick Bozich, had already been eyeing Andre for his Tuesday morning column, and it will be worth the wait. Sounds like Rick has gathered some good stuff from the senior guard, who gave the Cards a huge spark today and has been a steady leader and defensive demon all season. As a result, I focused on an equally deserving contributor in today’s game — McGee’s roommate, Terrence Williams.
— Williams was his usual quoteable self after the game. It all started when he was erasing the locker room whiteboard when reporters walked in. “You even erase the board?” somebody asked. “I do everything around here,” Williams answered.
He then turned his attention to George Goode, decked out in an all-white sweatsuit. “You got one of those too?” Williams asked. “Yeah,” Goode said. Williams, then, under his breath said, “Guess I’ve got to burn mine.”
More from Williams:
— Asked what he learned from being on a team that was one game from a conference title last season, and how it applies to the same situation now, Williams said: “Everything’s got to go up a notch. If you practice one way, you got to practice another way. In warm-ups, you’ve got to run. Everything has to go up a notch, because it gets a lot harder to win, a lot harder to score, to get rebounds. It’s tough. Everything has to be up a notch.”
— On how he has matured: “Well, I was 16, 17 when I got here. You’re going to do stupid things. I’m pretty sure all you guys did, you know. So I was just one of those who happened to do it. I wore a shirt with my face on it, stuff like that. That’s immature. . . . I’m a man, now. I’m going out grown. I’ve been through the wars, been through overtime games, been through an NIT season and an Elite Eight. I’m a totally different man.”
— On Pitino telling him that every game should be a commercial for himself: “At the end, when you’re done, you want adidas to fight with Nike over you. You’ve got to want McDonalds to want to do a commercial with you taking a drink and smiling for them. They don’t want you to do those things unless you are a good person, a good citizen, and have a smile. They don’t want to see guys coming to the bench scowling. They want to see a guy smiling.”
— Does he notice that his U of L time is winding down. “Yeah, I can tell. I feel older. My body’s starting to hurt. Nah, I’m playin. Yeah, I can tell. Three months ago, I couldn’t wait for this moment, to get ready to leave. Now it’s getting ready to be that time and you start to think more. I remember when I did this, or when I was a freshman. . . . It seems weird. I’ll see everybody going crazy on senior night, I’ll see my mom and I’ll probably start crying or something.”
— On rating Andre McGee’s dunk: “I give it about a 5. Andre’s a senior captain. You know, people just really think he’s a great defensive player. But in high school Andre averaged 40 points. If he’s open, I’ll bet my bottom dollar it’s going to go in 9 out of 10 times. . . . We came in together. I’ve known him since the ninth grade. It was a great decision we came here together. We’ve been best friends ever since we met, and we’re best friends today. We’re both from the West Coast. We understand each other. He works hard. I work hard. He’s never going to tell me — if I jump over three people, he’s still going to say, ‘You should have done this better.’ We don’t agree on nothing. He likes Kobe I like Lebron. He likes juice I like soda. He likes to sleep with the heat on, I like cold air. We do a lot of things different, but somehow it just works, we just click together.”
— On if he ever thought he’d make it to Senior Night: “Nah. I figured I’d have a sophomore night. But I love that I’ve stayed here four years. You win the fans over when you stay for four years. They love you when you’re a four-year guy, especially when you have a smile like mine. I wouldn’t change it for nothing. I’ve learned a lot here under coach Pitino.”
— I was really impressed with Marquette. No Dominic James. Jerel McNeal was having a horrendous shooting night. Yet with a minute to play, they were still in the game. Coach Buzz Williams did an outstanding job of using timeouts and making little changes to stem would-be U of L runs and giving his team a chance at the end. He also had high praise for U of L after the game: “That was a great college basketball atmosphere, maybe as good as any I’ve had an opportunity to be in. I think Louisville is one of the top two or three teams in the country.”
— Funny moment. Former C-J columnist and now ESPN.com senior columnist Pat Forde asked Williams a question, but was surprised by a personal greeting: “How are you doing Mr. Forde. I’ve been reading your stuff since I was a kid (round of press room laughter). No, I respect your work. I mean that genuinely.”
— Pitino on his team’s versatility: “The good thing about our basketball team, and we’ve scored 90 the past couple of games, is we can play fast and we can play slow. That’s a good thing. If we’re in a fight with Pittsburgh or Marquette, we can hold our own. If we’re in a running game, we can hold our own. So we really — we have to improve our foul shooting, there’s no question about that, especially Samardo because he’s going to get fouled a lot — but we’re doing a very good job right now.
— A thought on the stretch run: Used to be, you could take conference championships for granted at U of L. Back in the old Metro days, it was a two-horse race with Memphis many years, and all of the eggs were in the NCAA Tournament basket. Certainly, every season, pretty much, is defined by how a team does in the tournament. But winning a championship in a conference like the Big East is on a par with reaching a Final Four. And I really believe that, because it is accomplished over a longer stretch. And a Big East Tournament championship also has great meaning. So while the NCAA is still looming ahead, U of L fans are fortunate to have this coming week, with a team that has a chance to accomplish something very special before that even starts. To win a share of what many have called the best, deepest conference in college hoops history, is a banner-worthy accomplishment in itself.
— Finally, Earl Clark will be among those honored on Senior Night, though he’s only a junior. Clark confirmed in the locker room today that he is definitely declaring for the NBA Draft. Not that it’s a surprise, this has been his intent all
along, and Pitino has said as much. So Earl will be honored, much as Francisco Garcia was before he left.